Tony Sansotta

If you want to know just how steep the climb is to the united centre-left proposed last week by Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann, consider the resignation today of party president Tony Sansotta.

Yes, that Tony Sansotta — the one who with Swann co-signed last week’s “Let’s Talk” newspaper advertisement entreating members of the Alberta New Democrats and other political parties to make common cause with the Liberals to create a new progressive alternative to replace the Conservatives and Wildrose Alliance in the hearts of voters.

To achieve that goal, it was suggested in this blog a few hours ago, Swann and his Liberals would at the very least have to fight both die-hard New Democrats and some of their own party’s fiercest partisans.

Well, the fight started immediately, and was over quickly. The New Democrats got their licks in first, but it was Swann’s fellow Liberals — in the symbolic form of by his co-signer Sansotta — who delivered the coup de grace.

Sansotta pulled the plug on his role of Liberal Party president yesterday with a brisk resignation letter made conveniently available to the media. The note made it unambiguously clear where Sansotta really stood on the whole matter of working with New Democrats, or presumably anyone else.

“I have reflected on the events of the past several days and have come to the conclusion that the Alberta Liberal Party needs a different kind of President to work with the Leader,” Sansotta wrote. “All of you know that my focus has been to build strong constituencies, raise funds and help find top notch Liberal candidates to fight the next election. I will continue to help the Party in anyway I can. I am resigning my position as your President effective immediately. I wish all of you and the Alberta Liberal Party every success in electing Liberal MLAs.” (Emphasis added.)

Well, that was quick! Just nine days for Swann’s bid to reconcile the centre-left to crash and burn, or at least experience a very bumpy landing. Albertans can safely assume that any effort to create a united progressive alternative is deader than the proverbial mackerel for the rest of the current election cycle.

As an aside, Sansotta’s departure led to another peculiar development in the contest between the Alberta Liberals and New Democrats for the title of The Little Caucus that Shrank.

The local press reported that Swann had replaced Sansotta with an ardent Twitterist named Jody MacPherson. Oddly, the successful job candidate is an enthusiastic booster of Calgary mayoral candidate Kent Hehr. Hehr is the Alberta Liberal MLA for Calgary-Buffalo, so if his municipal campaign succeeds this October, it will deliver another body blow to Swann’s incredible shrinking caucus, reducing it to seven. (The formerly nine-member Legislative caucus lost Dave Taylor April 13 when the Calgary-Currie MLA threw up his hands over disagreements with Swann and opted to sit as an independent.)

These developments presumably leave the majority of committed Alberta Liberals happily stuck with a core vote around 20 per cent, give or take, and decided New Democrat voters equally satisfied with a core party share of roughly 10 per cent. This way, both can concentrate of taking potshots at the other and talking to themselves about their ideological purity. This is a much more comfortable role than the untidy business of providing an alternative government for Albertans, as suggested by Swann.

Meanwhile, without fear of further interruptions, the nascent Alberta Party — a seeming alliance of Red Tories, Blue Liberals and Hazy Greens — can get back to its ongoing strategy of meeting for coffee and pondering deeply how much better things would be if only they were the government.

This clears the path for the right-wing but populist Wildrose Alliance under Danielle Smith — apparently the only political leader in Alberta who is comfortable with ordinary voters — to pick up many soft Liberal and New Democrat votes from electors who are fed up enough with Premier Ed Stelmach’s moribund Conservatives to take a chance on the most likely next thing.

Only in Alberta, you say? Pity!

This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog, Alberta Diary.

David J. Climenhaga

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga is a journalist and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. He left journalism after the strike...